Nepali Congress (NC) President Sher Bahadur Deuba is facing pressure from the party’s central members to nominate a senior leader, a post that is not recognized by the party statute.
The party statute states that there shall be a 168-strong central committee along with 14 office-bearers, but it has no provision for the post of senior leader.
But some central members have been putting pressure on Deuba at the party’s ongoing central committee meeting to nominate a senior leader.
Central members from the party’s establishment faction have demanded that central member Gopal Man Shrestha be made senior leader while those from the anti-establishment faction have demanded the post for Shekhar Koirala.
Shrestha is ranked 15th in the party hierarchy and Koirala is 25th.
Citing tradition NC had nominated those who lost the election for party president in some general conventions as senior leaders in the past as well. Some central members are now adamant on continuing that tradition even though it is not recognized by the party’s statute.
Deuba has time and again been accused of not running the party in accordance with the party statute. But the same central members who talk about running the party strictly according to the statute are putting pressure on Deuba to nominate a senior leader by violating the statute.
Central member Sita Devi Devkota proposed Shrestha for the post of senior leader during the ongoing central committee meeting, pointing that he had struggled a lot in the party.
Shrestha was vice-president when Deuba formed Nepali Congress (Democratic). He was the party’s acting president for two years when the then king imprisoned Deuba.
Devkota also urged Deuba to pick a woman for the post of treasurer.
Deuba was statutorily required to nominate a treasurer within three months of the 14th general convention, but he has not done so even after 18 months. As per the statute, the party president can nominate one of the central members as treasurer.
Another central member Chandra Mohan Yadav was also in favor of nominating a senior leader.
“There’s a place, a tradition for senior leader in the party. We have been giving continuity to the tradition,” Yadav said. “Our respected leader Ram Chandra Paudel was a senior leader. That position is vacant after he became president. It will give more impetus to the party if Shekhar Koirala is made senior leader according to the tradition that we have been following.”
Paudel ended all affiliation with NC after he was elected the country’s president on March 9. Deuba had nominated Paudel – who had remained neutral during the 14th general convention – as central member, working committee member and parliamentary committee member tasked with distributing tickets. Paudel had been mentioned as senior leader in the central committee’s minute. He had been made senior leader after losing the election for president to Deuba during the 13th general convention in 2015.
“I think there would be an environment of consensus and cooperation in the party if a senior leader is nominated,” Yadav said.
He also said that the party’s president and other office-bearers should be available in their designated rooms at the party’s central office in Sanepa as far as possible.
Koirala, who lost the election for president to Deuba in the 14th general convention, has been given a separate room at the central office.
Not only central members, office-bearers and former office-bearers have also suggested to Deuba to pick a senior leader.
During a meeting of office-bearers and former office-bearers at Dhumbarahi on July 17 too, there were suggestions to nominate a senior leader.
Shrestha had said during the meeting that he had a natural claim to the post of senior leader by virtue of being the most senior leader after Deuba in the party.
Koirala has been saying in public that he has not demanded the post of senior leader with anybody. But he was addressed as senior leader during a meeting of the Koirala faction held at Hotel Basera on January 5, 2022, after the 14th general convention.
There are three kinds of opinions within the party regarding the post of senior leader. Some are of the view that nobody should be nominated senior leader as the statute doesn’t recognize the post, some are in favor of appointing two senior leaders, while others say that the candidate who loses the election for party president in the general convention can be made senior leader.
But the party’s statute does not say that the losing candidate in the election for president shall be made senior leader. Instead, it guarantees the post of central member to such a candidate.
Deuba, meanwhile, has so far remained silent on the issue of senior leader.
Some leaders have been pressuring him to nominate a senior leader, pointing that he was also made senior leader after losing to Sushil Koirala in the election for party president.
The tradition of nominating a senior leader had started after the unification of the Deuba-led Nepali Congress (Democratic) and the Girija Prasad Koirala-led Nepali Congress in 2007. Koirala had become the party president then, and Deuba senior leader.
Deuba had not become senior leader after losing to Koirala in the 11th general convention held in Pokhara. So it cannot be said that there was a tradition of giving the post of senior leader to the candidate losing the election for president.